Nairobi – A Somali court on Monday sentenced a freelance journalist to two months in jail on security-related charges, a press association said, in a case criticised by rights campaigners and media advocacy groups.
The sentencing of Abdalle Ahmed Mumin was “a pure travesty of justice”, the president of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS) said on Twitter, vowing to appeal the ruling.
Mumin, who is the secretary general of the SJS, was arrested in October last year on what authorities say are security-related charges.
His detention came days after the government announced a crackdown on media outlets that publish what it deems propaganda for the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab.
SJS and four other media advocacy groups had protested the directive, warning it clamped down on free speech.
“Today’s court sentence not only sends a chilling message to the entire media fraternity but also instills fear among media professionals and press freedom advocacy groups,” SJS president Mohamed Ibrahim said.
In the runup to the sentencing, rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Press Institute had called for the charges to be dropped, saying Mumin faced ongoing threats and persecution by Somali authorities for advocating for the right to freedom of expression.
@sjs_Somalia is outraged by the unjust judgement against its Secretary General @Cabdalleaxmed by Benadir regional court by sentencing him a two month jail term. pic.twitter.com/iSxPw9OhAn
— Somali Journalists Syndicate – SJS (@sjs_Somalia) February 13, 2023
“Continuing his prosecution not only casts a chilling effect on media freedom and journalism, but it also significantly contributes to the closing civic space in the country,” they said in a joint letter to Somalia’s attorney general in December.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Saturday said Mumin was facing persecution for defending the freedom of speech.
“During Abdalle’s trial it became more evident that his prosecution was about silencing a press freedom advocate and sending a message of fear to other journalists,” it said.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF, ranks Somalia 140th out of 180 countries on its global list of press freedom, with more than 50 journalists killed in the country since 2010.
The nation of 17 million people is the most dangerous country for journalists in Africa, according to RSF.
The main threat is from Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab fighters trying to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, however authorities are also accused of numerous violations.
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